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Living with Bears

Ken Anderson


Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Millinocket/St. Agatha, Maine
In another thread, about carrying guns on a homestead, I mentioned bears. Wanting to reply to a resulting post, I realized that what I wanted to discuss wasn't specifically about guns so, not wanting to take the other thread off topic, I thought I'd start another here. People tend to have strong feelings about bears, even those who have never seen one, and there are reasonable arguments that can be made in all directions on the subject, so let's have at it. Doing a forum search, I can see that a fairly lively discussion has already taken place here on bears in compost piles but, since I wanted to talk about more than compost piles, I decided to start a new topic.

First, I am not an expert on the subject, don't claim to be, and haven't even played one on TV; however, I did grow up in bear country and currently have a hundred acres of land in northern Maine that I share with at least four individual black bears, some of whom only visit during mating season. I don't think that I am naive when it comes to bears, and sometimes even carry a gun while walking on my land, yet I have no reasonable expectation of ever having to use it, and just as often I don't carry a gun when walking on my land.

I have never actually seen any of the bears on my land in Maine, because bears prefer it that way, but I have trail cameras set up that I move to various parts of the property, and hardly a day goes by that at least one bear doesn't show up on camera. In fact, I have a theory that one particular bear has made a game out of finding my camera because even when I moved it into a small clearing in the middle of a cedar swamp on the far end of the property, he was there within a few days. Since black bears on camera often look very very much alike, I may have had more than four individual bears.

From homesteaders and others who live in or on the edge of bear country, I often get the feeling that the very presence of a bear is seen as a threat and an imposition, and many will voice opinions reminiscent of early views of Native Americans, that the only good bear is a dead bear.

I grew up on a small farm on the edge of bear country, and spent a great deal of time in the woods, and have never viewed bears as a threat, at least no more than I would dogs or other people. In fact, far more people are killed each year by dogs and other people than by bears. I grew up in the UP of Michigan, where there were bears in the woods on the far side of our pasture, yet only once did we see one outside of the woods, and that was a young black bear that we watched running across the pasture, crossing the road and our neighbor's pasture, the into the woods on the other side. Generally, bears that have not been acclimated to people will go way out of their way to avoid being seen. We always had a couple of dogs, so there was never any evidence of bears coming into our yard or around the barns and outbuildings. Yet there was plenty of evidence of them in the woods. If we were to see a bear in the woods, it would be a fleeting glimpse of a bear's butt retreating into the bushes.

As children, we camped out in the woods all the time, without parents or adults with us, and neither we or our parents ever show any fear of harm coming to us from marauding bears. My cousins and I spent two full weeks in a teepee sort of structure that we had built ourselves out of native materials. Of course, there were always some scary moments, hearing the noises of animals scuffling about outside of our tent at night, but these villains of the night were as likely to have been raccoons than bears.

Recently, I did some research into the numbers of people killed by black bears in North America. I don't have the statistics in front of me right now, but most of these fatal attacks were committed by caged bears or bears that people had turned into pets, followed closely by attacks occurring in national parks or other unnatural environments, where bears have become acclimated to viewing people as sources of food. Third, but way behind the other two, were that of bears in places that had only recently been settled by people, where there were more bears than the natural environment could support.

Maine had only one recorded fatality caused by a black bear, which is the only kind of bear we have here, and that was a bear that had been kept in a cage at a gas station in, I think it was in the 1930s. The gas station owner, and keeper of the bear, had gone into the cage with the bear for some reason, and was attacked and killed. Going back as far as 1900, there were no recorded deaths caused by black bears in the wild in Maine, and very few attacks. Our black flies probably pose more of a threat than our black bears.

The dangers presented by black bears are nevertheless real and are, to some extent, probably regional in nature. Black bears in Maine, with its vast woodlands and forests, have little need to rummage through people's trash cans at night, or to enter homes looking for food.

Bears are nearly always in search of food. Over the spring, summer and fall, a black bear will put on a huge amount of weight, in preparation for winter. Rather than being major predators of deer or livestock, black bears rarely hunt and kill animals larger than rabbits or rodents. When bear are found feeding on a deer or on someone's cow, the greater likelihood is that the animal died of something else before the bear came along. Eighty-five to ninety percent of a black bear's diet consists of vegetable and plant matter, and a large percentage of its meat is in the form of insects, caterpillars, grubs and other crawly things.

The above refers to a black bear's preference. However, black bears are highly adaptable. When its environment is changed, whether by human encroachment or other destruction of the forests and woodlands in which it lives, then the bear will look elsewhere for food. One of the places it might look is in your backyard. A dog will generally be enough to keep a bear away, and I've seen video of large bears being chased away by little ankle-biting dogs. Otherwise, if the bear comes into your backyard, it will usually be at night. If it finds food in a trashcan that you have left outside, it is going to get into that trashcan, and it will remember your backyard as being a source of food. Other attractants include birdfeeders, food stored in accessible outbuildings, dog food bowls left outside while the dog is taken in at night, or chickens and other kinds of poultry. A very hungry bear might look to larger animals as prey, but generally any animal larger than the bear will be safe from harm.

People who live in the city take precautions to protect their stuff. At the very least, they lock their doors and their windows, and they don't leave their keys in their car. People may go beyond that, to hire security companies, installing burglar alarms, and maybe carrying their wallet in their front pocket rather than their back left pocket, where thieves may expect to find it. We warn our children to look both ways before crossing the street, and not to talk to strangers.

Yet, when they move to the country, they think that they don't have to worry anymore about anyone taking their stuff. That's not true. Not only are there dishonest people in the country as well, but you need to concern yourself with the raccoons, skunks, bears and other critters who may be lurking about in the night, or even in the daytime, looking for your stuff. Take similar precautions. Don't put food wastes in trash cans or bags outdoors or in easily accessible porches and outbuildings. Take your birdfeeder in at night, or make sure that it's not accessible by bears. Birdseed is very high in the calories that bears need and are looking for, and they will be strongly attracted to it. If you have a dog, don't yell at it to shut up at night because it's probably busy doing its job, as annoying as it might be at three o'clock in the morning.

Don't feed the bears, whether intentionally or accidentally, and they are not likely to be a nuisance. Feed the bears, and you can expect to find more of them. If you remember reading about the marks that hobos would put on people's fences indicating whether or not they were a soft touch, it's a little like that, I think. Bears will remember the places where they have found food in the past, and they will come back. If you don't find food, you may still have a bear coming in to investigate from time to time, but you won't have repeat visits.

In my research, I have read some accounts of people whose homes or camps had been broken into by bears, some even resulting in attacks. At least two of these people had been feeding the bears, because they enjoyed seeing the bears in their yard. Once you have a bear in your yard, the animal can smell any food that you might have out in your house and, although it would certainly be unusual, the bear might decide that it's worth the effort to go in and get some. Campers are wisely told not to keep food in their tent. If you are living in bear country, it's a good idea not to leave food lying around in your house either, such as on your table or on a window sill. Of course, the first step would be not to attract them into your yard to begin with.

When you are in the city, do you leave your wallet lying on the seat of your car where anyone walking by can see it? Of course not, because that might tempt someone to break into your car and take it. It's the same principle, only bears can smell a lot better than they can see, so you want to keep the smells down.

My experience is restricted to black bears. While I have done some reading on brown bears, grizzlies and polar bears, I don't know a lot about them. Of course, you should feel free to discuss them here as well, if you wish. There are more similarities than there are differences.

The most dangerous black bear is one that has been acclimated to people, and which has come to view people as sources of food. These would be the ones who can be found in national parks or other unnatural habitats. These might also include those that have become accustomed to being fed by people, whether intentionally or through carelessness.

The next most dangerous black bear is one that resides so far into the wilderness that it has no experience with people at all. Such a bear might view a person as being the 150-pound weakling that he is, and could potentially view the person as being food.

Then, of course, there are the aberrancies. It is not the norm for people to molest, rape, murder or cannibalize people, yet there are people who do these things. The same may be true of a bear. For reasons that may make sense only to the bear, some bears might just simply be dangerous. With such bears, there is probably a story behind whatever it is that they are, as there is with people who exhibit aberrant behavior, but that story doesn't matter to you if you are being attacked. This is outside of the norm, but it can occur. Nevertheless, just as most of us don't walk around in cities and towns with an unreasonable fear of people, we shouldn't have an unreasonable fear of bears while we are in the forest. Caution and respect are in order, but not fear.


That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it, unless someone yells at me or something.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6582
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
Good information.

Two other points I will bring up: Bees, and women.

Bees: Bears love protein rich bees. Contrary to urban myths, bears are not particularly fond of honey. It is the bees that they are after. A hungry bear will demolish any hive it comes across to get those yummy bees.

Women: Any woman in her period should stay out of the woods. Most Grizzly attacks, if investigated, involve a woman in her period. A bear's keen sense of smell can detect it at a great distance, and he will come to investigate.
Ken Anderson


Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Millinocket/St. Agatha, Maine
When confronted by something approaching along a trail or through the woods, a bear will generally run. But often, it will then circle back to see what it was that it had run from. So that a bear that I might catch a glimpse of scurrying into the bushes might be secretly watching me from the bushes later on. I saw a photograph once, that was taken by someone who was taking pictures of scenery in the forest. Only after he developed the film did he notice that a bear was there, barely visible, but watching him from the brush line.

Changing subjects slightly, I don't hunt and my property is posted, not because I object to hunting but because I enjoy the photos and video that are captured by my wildlife cameras. However, well meaning people are making big mistakes when they lobby to ban bear hunting, except in places where their numbers are actually very low. One of the reasons that bears retain an otherwise unwarranted respect for human beings is that they have come to associate us with bad things, such as guns and death. I don't know how much of it bears understand, but they have a fear of people that isn't justified by our comparative size, strength or agility. Bears who reside entirely within national parks or in parts of the country where bear hunting has been banned for a few generations of bears will come to lose that respect, and correspondingly become more dangerous to us.

I worried about the bear that I have most commonly seen on my wildlife camera photos and video because, for a period of about a month during bear hunting season last year, he hadn't appeared. Learning the four bears had been shot just beyond our property lines, I thought he might have been one of them, so I can understand and empathize with the sentiments that lead to calls to ban the hunting of bears, but it is not an appropriate action.

I am sixty years old, overweight, and I fall down sometimes just walking through the woods. Except for the fear of being hunted, bears have no reason to fear me. Yet they do, and I think I'd like to keep it that way.

Oh, I should mention that the bear that I was concerned about showed up again about a week after hunting season ended. Apparently, he was just hiding out for the duration. I've had this property for less than two years and prior to my posting it last year, it was hunted.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
we have a lot of black bear here in Michigan..and we have them around from time to time..but as you said..no more annoying than a dog..actually less annoying than the stray or let loose dogs in the area.

the bear will poop and eat and occasionall trash something..but the dogs dig and destroy and are miserable when they aren't properly controlled.

I actually encourage our bear..although I don't "feed them" food I do plant food plants that they are welcome to eat, and in the apple season they clean up the ones the deer don't get that smash on the ground when they fall or are bruised or damaged..which often is a lot of apples.

love that they clean em up as it keeps the hornets off of my walking places (however occasionally step in the bear poop)..

Mostly around here they'll eat the droppepd fruit and occasionally steal a bird feeder we forgot to allow to go unfilled..and maybe get into a garbage can, but that never was ours, just a neighbors.

They have never attempted to enter the house or mess with us.

I think if you are KNOWN to them, your voice, your smell, and your habits..you will get along fine with a bear...however you don't want to go quietly stumbling upon them..

I'm fairly noisy when I'm out and about..but not overly..I'm just large and clumsy..and genearlly walk heavy..so they know I'm around..i don't often carry a gun with me..occasionally a cell phone..but not even often that..unless I'm walking a distance..

only time I ever was frightened was when I was 2 miles away from the house and one was growling from a swamp..grunting really..and I was concerned it might have babies..so I went to a neighbors and asked for a ride home..that was many years ago.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Ken Anderson


Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Millinocket/St. Agatha, Maine
Brenda Groth wrote:we have a lot of black bear here in Michigan..and we have them around from time to time..but as you said..no more annoying than a dog..actually less annoying than the stray or let loose dogs in the area.


I grew up in the UP. I lived on a farm and never saw bears there, or evidence that they came around, although they were in the woods that began at the edge of the field. If there's a bad wild crop, they can be expected to look elsewhere for food, and that may be someone's backyard, if they can find food there. I am also planting perennials with the understanding that I'll be sharing with the bears and other creatures.

Brenda Groth wrote:I'm fairly noisy when I'm out and about..but not overly..I'm just large and clumsy..and generally walk heavy..so they know I'm around..i don't often carry a gun with me..occasionally a cell phone..but not even often that..unless I'm walking a distance.


I don't have cellular coverage when I'm in the woods, although there are some clearings that I can get a signal in. I don't generally make a point of being loud in the woods, but a bear would have to be deaf not to know I'm coming before I could ever see him. The only exception is the cedar swamp. the ground there is mossy and all but clear of underbrush so walking through the cedar swamp doesn't create a lot of noise. When I think of it, sometimes I'll talk to myself or hum while I'm walking through that part of the property so as not to stumble upon a sleeping bear, although I still doubt that it's necessary.

As mentioned, I go out without a gun about as often as I carry one, but whenever I come across bear scat that is still soft, I start imagining things, so if I know that I'm going to be walking well off the road I'll sometimes bring a gun. Truly though, bears that are really interested in attacking someone do so without warning, so it's unlikely the gun would do me any good. Still it eases my mind some.
Marsha Richardson


Joined: Feb 15, 2012
Posts: 20
We have 36 acres of mostly woods, 2 acres with garden and fruit trees and chickens. On our game cameras we have captured several bears including a sow with cubs which we watched grow up through game camera pictures. Never any problems in 25 years until last year. Then a bear broke into the chicken area and ate all the feed while bashing the feeders to smitherines. We knew it was a bear because of the tracks and the fact that apparently 100lbs of laying pellets causes terrible intestinal problems for bears. It turns out one of the cubs, recently set off on his own by his mother, just didn't have any fear of people. Folks kept running into him in odd places and he was even huffing and behaving badly and scarily when he did creep up on people and they faced him. Our way of dealing with him was 1) put up woven electric fence around the chickens with a solar charger, and 2) arm all the neighbors with rubber buckshot and pepper spray. Our goal was to make this bear fear people! We caught him trying to get the birds and shocking himself, when we ran at him shouting and he turned to run --- pow, right in the butt with the buckshot. No harm to him but a lesson. Another neighbor had a very close encounter and ran through the same drill. That seemed to do the trick, the only other sighting since then he turned and ran as fast as his fat little feet could go. We have never had problems with any other adult bears even though there are a lot of them around here. I sure hope it stays that way.
Ken Anderson


Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Millinocket/St. Agatha, Maine
That sounds like a good way to handle it.
richard valley


Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
Marsha, We set up a charger that is 9.3 Joules, this will stop a bear. If this bear is hanging around someone is going to get hurt or killed as he gets larger. Bears run from people be cause they know humans can make that big noise. When a bear follows a hicker for days and gets closer and closer. If the hicker can't make that big noise, with a gun, he begans to give the bear his food. When he runs out of food he is in trouble. People are killed and eaten every year and there is little reporting. We want to like bear, We, people, think they are cute and like the wooden chainsaw carvings of them.

This bear will first eat domestic animals, get into trash cans, than houses it's only a mater of time.

This week, on the other side of the lake, the police euthanized a bear that was breaking into houses. There is a lady up in arms wanting the police to be brought to justice. Fact is they may have saved this lady's life.

Let me add: Two years ago a black bear killed two of our doe, we got the bear, but he had us in our house for 10 days, not able to let the kids out, not able to leave. I spent nights in the overhead of the barn but he just strumed the fence and kept out of site. He knew I could make the big noise, I had parted his hair the second night with a 308, the sheriff had come, they shot bean bags at him, he just kept out of range and followed them back, keeping just out of range. He's a good bear now.

Please keep us posted as to this bear.
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
I'm about to build a shack and Chicken coop about 100' from where a Bear has been scratching the bark off of saplings to mark it's territory. The scratches are along a path that leads from a ridge to the swamp, probably used when in the area and the Bear feels like a drink (or some Frogs, if he's lucky).

This'll be fun, eh? From this thread I have decided that there will be NO food around the shack (or Chicken coop, other than Chicken food). On problem with that is that Chickens and Bears eat a lot of the same things. So if I start doing permaculture with the idea to feed my Chickens... will the Bear hang around? Probably not.

My guess is that the Bear will slowly stop coming around. The Dogs and the electric fence that I'll use to nudge the trail farther away will probably help. The Bears' scratches on the trees and the Cougar tracks... perfect place for Chickens. (I'm such an idiot


much of what my neighbours consider to be good I consider to be bad
Elisha Gray


Joined: Mar 26, 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Sussex County, NJ
I'm relatively new to bear country (4 years), and I live close to an area where the DEP chooses to relocate nussince black bears from urban areas all over the state. I've had plenty of close encounters around the house and on deep forest hikes... Bears in the woods (while more intimidating at first glance) prefer to stay away from people, where city Bears tend to have no fear of people.

Being in a state with strong anti-gun laws I've taken to keeping an airhorn/bear pepper spray foggers around the house and that I take with me out on hikes...

In the woods I've needed to draw the pepper spray a few times but never needed to use it on a bear... When I've stumbled into a mother bear with several cubs on a hike, there is usually a few second stand off where neither the bear or you move... I find that having at least some kind of weapon on me helps me make the right decisions that help avoid a conflict.

The first time I saw a bear I turned my back only to have it start to charge at me... when I stood my ground it backed off.... From this experience I learned that posture and attitude is VERY important, and that young city males tend to be foolishly aggressive.

I don't partake but I support the bear hunt, although I think the hunters should ONLY be allowed to take a bear INSIDE city limits... I doubt they would ever allow that due to safety concerns, but I think that the bears would adapt to that kind of hunt by avoiding population centers.

After several years without a hunt the bear population had exploded around here... I was having close encounters weekly... Now that the hunt has resumed I don't have "encounters", I just occasionally see a bear leaving the area after noticing me.

I've really come to enjoy sharing the mountain with the bears, and I think not feeling vulnerable to a bear attack is a large contributor to that enjoyment. The forestry folks at a nearby state park do have done a lot to planting berry bush's and nut trees to provide the bears with more natural foraging opportunities, and that's a very permaculture approach to coexistence as well.

--Multi-Mode


-- Multi-Mode
Rene Bagwell


Joined: Mar 28, 2012
Posts: 6
Location: SW Montana
Ken Anderson wrote:In another thread, about carrying guns on a homestead, I mentioned bears. Wanting to reply to a resulting post, I realized that what I wanted to discuss wasn't specifically about guns so, not wanting to take the other thread off topic, I thought I'd start another here. People tend to have strong feelings about bears, even those who have never seen one, and there are reasonable arguments that can be made in all directions on the subject, so let's have at it. Doing a forum search, I can see that a fairly lively discussion has already taken place here on bears in compost piles but, since I wanted to talk about more than compost piles, I decided to start a new topic.

First, I am not an expert on the subject, don't claim to be, and haven't even played one on TV; however, I did grow up in bear country and currently have a hundred acres of land in northern Maine that I share with at least four individual black bears, some of whom only visit during mating season. I don't think that I am naive when it comes to bears, and sometimes even carry a gun while walking on my land, yet I have no reasonable expectation of ever having to use it, and just as often I don't carry a gun when walking on my land.

I have never actually seen any of the bears on my land in Maine, because bears prefer it that way, but I have trail cameras set up that I move to various parts of the property, and hardly a day goes by that at least one bear doesn't show up on camera. In fact, I have a theory that one particular bear has made a game out of finding my camera because even when I moved it into a small clearing in the middle of a cedar swamp on the far end of the property, he was there within a few days. Since black bears on camera often look very very much alike, I may have had more than four individual bears.

From homesteaders and others who live in or on the edge of bear country, I often get the feeling that the very presence of a bear is seen as a threat and an imposition, and many will voice opinions reminiscent of early views of Native American, that the only good bear is a dead bear.

I grew up on a small farm on the edge of bear country, and spent a great deal of time in the woods, and have never viewed bears as a threat, at least no more than I would dogs or other people. In fact, far more people are killed each year by dogs and other people than by bears. I grew up in the UP of Michigan, where there were bears in the woods on the far side of our pasture, yet only once did we see one outside of the woods, and that was a young black bear that we watched running across the pasture, crossing the road and our neighbor's pasture, the into the woods on the other side. Generally, bears that have not been acclimated to people will go way out of their way to avoid being seen. We always had a couple of dogs, so there was never any evidence of bears coming into our yard or around the barns and outbuildings. Yet there was plenty of evidence of them in the woods. If we were to see a bear in the woods, it would be a fleeting glimpse of a bear's butt retreating into the bushes.

As children, we camped out in the woods all the time, without parents or adults with us, and neither we or our parents ever show any fear of harm coming to us from marauding bears. My cousins and I spent two full weeks in a teepee sort of structure that we had built ourselves out of native materials. Of course, there were always some scary moments, hearing the noises of animals scuffling about outside of our tent at night, but these villains of the night were as likely to have been raccoons than bears.

Recently, I did some research into the numbers of people killed by black bears in North America. I don't have the statistics in front of me right now, but most of these fatal attacks were committed by caged bears or bears that people had turned into pets, followed closely by attacks occurring in national parks or other unnatural environments, where bears have become acclimated to viewing people as sources of food. Third, but way behind the other two, were that of bears in places that had only recently been settled by people, where there were more bears than the natural environment could support.

Maine had only one recorded fatality caused by a black bear, which is the only kind of bear we have here, and that was a bear that had been kept in a cage at a gas station in, I think it was in the 1930s. The gas station owner, and keeper of the bear, had gone into the cage with the bear for some reason, and was attacked and killed. Going back as far as 1900, there were no recorded deaths caused by black bears in the wild in Maine, and very few attacks. Our black flies probably pose more of a threat than our black bears.

The dangers presented by black bears are nevertheless real and are, to some extent, probably regional in nature. Black bears in Maine, with its vast woodlands and forests, have little need to rummage through people's trash cans at night, or to enter homes looking for food.

Bears are nearly always in search of food. Over the spring, summer and fall, a black bear will put on a huge amount of weight, in preparation for winter. Rather than being major predators of deer or livestock, black bears rarely hunt and kill animals larger than rabbits or rodents. When bear are found feeding on a deer or on someone's cow, the greater likelihood is that the animal died of something else before the bear came along. Eighty-five to ninety percent of a black bear's diet consists of vegetable and plant matter, and a large percentage of its meat is in the form of insects, caterpillars, grubs and other crawly things.

The above refers to a black bear's preference. However, black bears are highly adaptable. When its environment is changed, whether by human encroachment or other destruction of the forests and woodlands in which it lives, then the bear will look elsewhere for food. One of the places it might look is in your backyard. A dog will generally be enough to keep a bear away, and I've seen video of large bears being chased away by little ankle-biting dogs. Otherwise, if the bear comes into your backyard, it will usually be at night. If it finds food in a trashcan that you have left outside, it is going to get into that trashcan, and it will remember your backyard as being a source of food. Other attractants include birdfeeders, food stored in accessible outbuildings, dog food bowls left outside while the dog is taken in at night, or chickens and other kinds of poultry. A very hungry bear might look to larger animals as prey, but generally any animal larger than the bear will be safe from harm.

People who live in the city take precautions to protect their stuff. At the very least, they lock their doors and their windows, and they don't leave their keys in their car. People may go beyond that, to hire security companies, installing burglar alarms, and maybe carrying their wallet in their front pocket rather than their back left pocket, where thieves may expect to find it. We warn our children to look both ways before crossing the street, and not to talk to strangers.

Yet, when they move to the country, they think that they don't have to worry anymore about anyone taking their stuff. That's not true. Not only are there dishonest people in the country as well, but you need to concern yourself with the raccoons, skunks, bears and other critters who may be lurking about in the night, or even in the daytime, looking for your stuff. Take similar precautions. Don't put food wastes in trash cans or bags outdoors or in easily accessible porches and outbuildings. Take your birdfeeder in at night, or make sure that it's not accessible by bears. Birdseed is very high in the calories that bears need and are looking for, and they will be strongly attracted to it. If you have a dog, don't yell at it to shut up at night because it's probably busy doing its job, as annoying as it might be at three o'clock in the morning.

Don't feed the bears, whether intentionally or accidentally, and they are not likely to be a nuisance. Feed the bears, and you can expect to find more of them. If you remember reading about the marks that hobos would put on people's fences indicating whether or not they were a soft touch, it's a little like that, I think. Bears will remember the places where they have found food in the past, and they will come back. If you don't find food, you may still have a bear coming in to investigate from time to time, but you won't have repeat visits.

In my research, I have read some accounts of people whose homes or camps had been broken into by bears, some even resulting in attacks. At least two of these people had been feeding the bears, because they enjoyed seeing the bears in their yard. Once you have a bear in your yard, the animal can smell any food that you might have out in your house and, although it would certainly be unusual, the bear might decide that it's worth the effort to go in and get some. Campers are wisely told not to keep food in their tent. If you are living in bear country, it's a good idea not to leave food lying around in your house either, such as on your table or on a window sill. Of course, the first step would be not to attract them into your yard to begin with.

When you are in the city, do you leave your wallet lying on the seat of your car where anyone walking by can see it? Of course not, because that might tempt someone to break into your car and take it. It's the same principle, only bears can smell a lot better than they can see, so you want to keep the smells down.

My experience is restricted to black bears. While I have done some reading on brown bears, grizzlies and polar bears, I don't know a lot about them. Of course, you should feel free to discuss them here as well, if you wish. There are more similarities than there are differences.

The most dangerous black bear is one that has been acclimated to people, and which has come to view people as sources of food. These would be the ones who can be found in national parks or other unnatural habitats. These might also include those that have become accustomed to being fed by people, whether intentionally or through carelessness.

The next most dangerous black bear is one that resides so far into the wilderness that it has no experience with people at all. Such a bear might view a person as being the 150-pound weakling that he is, and could potentially view the person as being food.

Then, of course, there are the aberrancies. It is not the norm for people to molest, rape, murder or cannibalize people, yet there are people who do these things. The same may be true of a bear. For reasons that may make sense only to the bear, some bears might just simply be dangerous. With such bears, there is probably a story behind whatever it is that they are, as there is with people who exhibit aberrant behavior, but that story doesn't matter to you if you are being attacked. This is outside of the norm, but it can occur. Nevertheless, just as most of us don't walk around in cities and towns with an unreasonable fear of people, we shouldn't have an unreasonable fear of bears while we are in the forest. Caution and respect are in order, but not fear.



May I ask, where have you heard or read that Native Americans are "anti-bear"?

I've had 2 instances over the past 7 years where black bears have come running across my property, which lays between 2 mountain ranges and have stopped to eat my choke cherries and take swipes at my dogs before continuing on. We are very Bear Aware as this is both black bear and grizzly country; none of us venture outside without a dog, whether during the day or at night, to alert us to other wildlife. We also have elk, wolves, coyotes, deer, pronghorn antelope the occasional moose on the property during various times of the year.
Rene Bagwell


Joined: Mar 28, 2012
Posts: 6
Location: SW Montana
I forgot to mention, we have several cans of bear spray but have never had to use it, thankfully. On the other hand, I know of not even one hunter that doesn't carry a .44 into grizzly country, whether they're hunting or hiking. I don't believe a can of bear spray could stop a griz.
Jeremy Frank


Joined: Apr 03, 2012
Posts: 2
Location: NE Washington and NW Montana
Rene, I don't mean to speak for Ken but I think he's referring to what some of the old fashion views ABOUT Native Americans were - some people used to say "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" - I think that's what he's referring to. Not that Native Americans thought "the only good bear is a dead bear".


http://www.montanahomesteader.blogspot.com/
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4071
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  57
Yes, that was my understanding. I can almost hear John Wayne saying it. I have a Native Canadian helper who says it regularly when he's angry with relatives. He enjoys seeing the shocked looks on the faces of our mostly white customers.
He also enjoys really playing up his faint accent. He calls it playing "Tonto",the Lone Ranger's buddy. Martin has an excellent vocabulary, but when he's in character, he employs mostly gestures, grunts and a form of pidgin English seldom heard outside of 1950s westerns.

I've heard that statisticly, the most dangerous bears are females with cubs.

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David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Dale Hodgins wrote:Native Canadian


Some of us prefer "pre-Canadian".
Elisha Gray


Joined: Mar 26, 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Sussex County, NJ
Rene Bagwell wrote:I don't believe a can of bear spray could stop a griz.


At first glance I would have assumed that too... I did a lot of research before deciding to carry the spray... The two facts that sold me was the rubber meets the road statistics on people trying to take down a bear in a high stress situation and failing to do anything but provoke the attack half of the time. The other thing that sold me on was reading (in a PDF I couldn't find quickly on Google) that forest rangers are now required to carry the spray in grizzly country in addition to their firearm because of its proven stopping power.

So far not overacting and moving slow has been enough to escape any encounters I've had (including encounters with Mothers + Cubs)... I'll be sure to update this thread on the effectiveness if I ever need to use the spray. I carry it for piece of mind, it helps me stay relaxed and make smarter choices.

Further Reading:
http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/grizzly/bear%20spray.pdf

"The question is not one of marksmanship or clear thinking in the face of a growling bear, for even a skilled
marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun. Law
enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality --
based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and
defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons
defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured
experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries"



Its only natural to fear/respect Bear's but that fear is not always very rational. The still make me nervous but Bears are welcome around here and have done an amazing job spreading seeded grapes/choke cherries all over this mountain...

(These were taken last summer from my backyard)


Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4071
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  57
David Bates wrote:
Dale Hodgins wrote:Native Canadian


Some of us prefer "pre-Canadian".


Martin was born 39 years ago and is thus too young to be a pre-Canadian. He refers to himself as a Native Canadian and refers to "pale skins" as immigrant Canadians.

I'm not sure where the bears stand on this issue.
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
There is a town called Haliburton North-West of here that is "cottage country". What that means is that thousands of people from Toronto drive up there every Summer weekend, stay in their cottages on the waterfront and, at some point, drive over to the dump to get rid of their trash and "watch the Bears". Watching the Bears at the dump was a favourite passtime in Haliburton, if you were invited to a cottage there it was sure to be on the agenda.

A couple of years ago the city council decided that the Bears at the dump were becoming a problem. I suppose they thought that there were too many and that sooner or later there was going to be a Bear/human interaction resulting in a chewed up cottager. So they built a Bear proof fence around the dump. What happened was pretty predictable. All of these starving Bears headed out in a circle and became a huge problem for the cottagers. Spreading trash, going through screen doors and terrifying weekend wilderness lovers. They say that the Bears are still a big problem in Haliburton. I'm not so sure it's the Bears.

(p.s. I'm going to go with Native Haliburtian)
 
 
subject: Living with Bears
 
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